The 10 Best Lakes for Houseboats in the United States

Written by Jennifer Haase
Updated: May 11, 2023
© kavram/
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Many beautiful lakes in the United States offer house boating opportunities. However, with plenty of scenic landscapes and houseboat mooring stations, some lakes are better than others for the houseboater lifestyle. Our curated list of the 10 best lakes for houseboats in the United States will help you choose the best places to float your boat.

We’ll also look at some essential houseboat regulations in these beautiful waterways. Read on to discover which lakes support your house boating dreams!

Lake Powell Arizona
The stunning views around Lake Powell are perfect for houseboat enthusiasts.


Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona

Lake Powell is one of the most popular house-boating lakes in the United States, and it’s not hard to see why. With nearly 2,000 miles of scenic shoreline with countless coves and inlets to explore, Lake Powell is a true boater’s paradise. And the scenery is simply breathtaking. Be sure to boat through Padre Bay to see some beautiful natural monuments like Cookie Jar Butte and Domingues Butte.

Houseboats are a popular way to experience Lake Powell. Follow all regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. For example, make sure houseboats are registered and insured. There are also specific areas of the lake that are off-limits to houseboats, so be sure to check the map before heading out. Finally, remember always to practice safe boating habits and care for the environment. Following these simple guidelines can help make Lake Powell an excellent place for everyone.

Recently, some boat ramps have temporarily closed to houseboats due to lower water levels from drought, such as the Wahweap Main Launch Ramp. Be sure to check for ramp closings before heading to the lake.

Houseboat vacations on Shasta Lake include great fishing opportunities.


Shasta Lake, California

Shasta Lake is a beautiful reservoir in northern California that is perfect for a houseboat vacation. With over 30,000 acres of water to enjoy, Shasta Lake is one of the largest lakes in California. The shoreline offers over 300 miles of scenic forest views. And there’s plenty to do on and around the lake, from fishing and swimming to hiking.

There are a few vital regulations to follow when living on a houseboat on Shasta Lake:

  1. The boat must have a toilet, stove, and refrigerator.
  2. Houseboats are not allowed to be moored for more than 14 days in a row and must be moved at least 1 mile from their original location after that time.
  3. Houseboats are only allowed to operate during daylight hours.

These regulations help ensure that those who live on houseboats on Shasta Lake do so safely and responsibly. By following these guidelines, houseboaters can enjoy their time on the lake while respecting the rights of other lake users.

Lake of the Woods, Minnesota
Minnesota lakes offer many coves, bays, and marinas for houseboats.

©Tony Webster / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

Birch Lake, Minnesota

Minnesota is a popular destination for those who enjoy boating and fishing. And Birch Lake is one of Minnesota’s largest waterways for houseboat enthusiasts! The lake sits in the northern part of the state and is known for its clear water and beautiful scenery. It has over 7,000 acres of water and 90 miles of shoreline, with several private marinas. In addition, there are many picturesque bays, coves, and islands to see along your houseboating adventure on Birch Lake.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) governs houseboat usage on Birch Lake. Follow their houseboat regulations for the safety of both boaters and swimmers. For example, all boats must have a working fire extinguisher, and all boat operators must have a valid driver’s license.

Those interested in renting a houseboat on Birch Lake should contact one of the many rental companies in the area. Houseboat rentals typically include the cost of fuel, and most companies require a minimum rental period of three days. Guests should also be prepared to pay a damage deposit. However, with some planning, renting a houseboat can be a fun and affordable way to enjoy all that Birch Lake offers.

Forested shorelines along Bull Shoals Lake make for beautiful sightseeing from a houseboat.

©Tara Ballard/

Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas/Missouri

Bull Shoals Lake is a reservoir in Arkansas and Missouri that is perfect for a houseboat vacation. With over 48,000 surface acres of water to explore, Bull Shoals Lake is one of the largest lakes in the United States. From forested shorelines to pretty coves and bays, the views from Bull Shoals Lake are worth the trip.

Keep in mind the rules regarding houseboats on Bull Shoals Lake. First and foremost, register all boats with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Secondly, houseboats are only allowed on the lake from sunrise to sunset. Finally, don’t anchor your boat within 200 feet of any shoreline, dock, or boat ramp. Violation of any of these regulations could result in a fine. So familiarize yourself with the rules before heading out on the lake.

Houseboats can be a great way to enjoy all that Bull Shoals Lake offers, but it’s essential to play by the rules. Have fun and stay safe!

There are many scenic stops for boaters along Table Rock Lake in Missouri.

© Kreutz

Table Rock Lake, Missouri

Table Rock Lake is a Missouri reservoir perfect for a houseboat vacation. With over 700 miles of shoreline and 43,000 acres of water, Table Rock Lake is another massive lake in the United States. This lake is a fishing oasis for catfish, crappie, and Kentucky spotted bass. And the scenic stops along the shore include the Talking Rocks Cavern for cave exploring. Houseboating on Table Rock Lake is a popular way to enjoy all this reservoir has to offer.

Table Rock Lake has established regulations for houseboats. For example, all houseboats must be appropriately registered and display the hull’s registration number. In addition, all houseboats must have current insurance and a valid decal from the Missouri Highway Patrol Water Patrol Division. The maximum capacity for a houseboat is 16 people or 4,000 pounds, whichever is less. Houseboats cannot tie up to other boats, docks, or shoreline structures. Finally, all houseboats must comply with the noise ordinance, prohibiting amplified music between 10 pm and 7 am. Following these regulations allows everyone to enjoy a safe and fun experience on Table Rock Lake.

Kerr Lake NC
Houseboats are a great way to enjoy Kerr Lake in North Carolina and Virginia.

©Aarika Sandlin/

Kerr Lake, North Carolina/Virginia

Kerr Lake is a reservoir in North Carolina and Virginia that is perfect for a houseboat vacation. With over 50,000 acres of water and more than 850 miles of shoreline to explore, Kerr Lake is a hotspot for houseboaters in the U.S. Satterwhite Point Marina in North Caroline and Rudds Creek Marina (Buggs Island) in Virginia are two popular stops for all boaters along Kerr Lake.

Take heed of all regulations when living on a houseboat on Kerr Lake. The lake has two sections, North Carolina and Virginia. Therefore, there are different rules for each section.

In North Carolina, houseboats must be registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles and must have a decal displayed. In addition, the houseboat should not be your permanent residence, and occupancy cannot exceed more than 60 consecutive days in any calendar year.

In Virginia, houseboats must be registered with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and must have a decal displayed. In addition, houseboats should not be permanent residences. The maximum length of stay for houseboats is 21 days in any one calendar year.

Both states require that houseboats have a working toilet and a method of disposing of waste. Do not discharge gray water into the lake. Houseboats must have fire extinguishers on board and follow all boating safety regulations.

Living on a houseboat can be a great way to enjoy the beauty of Kerr Lake. By following the regulations, houseboat owners can help to keep the lake clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.

Wheeler Lake
Sunsets on Wheeler Lake are worthy of every houseboat vacation in Alabama.

© Jennings

Wheeler Lake, Alabama

Wheeler Lake is a reservoir in Alabama that is perfect for a houseboat vacation. With over 1,000 miles of shoreline and more than 67,000 acres of water, Wheeler Lake offers plenty of room for houseboating and fun activities on land. It’s one of the biggest lakes for boaters in Alabama! You’ll enjoy stunning views along Joe Wheeler State Park and have the opportunity to see Wheeler Dam. There are houseboat rentals and guided houseboat tours along Wheeler Lake for people wanting the experience without owning a boat.

In Alabama, houseboats are governed by the same rules and regulations as other boats. However, a few other things to keep in mind when operating a houseboat on Wheeler Lake.

First and foremost, all houseboats must have valid registration from the Alabama Marine Patrol. Houseboats must also display proper lighting at all times, when underway, and at anchor. There are specific regulations regarding the size and placement of these lights, so be sure to check with the Marine Patrol before setting out.

Houseboats cannot discharge any sewage or other waste directly into Wheeler Lake. Instead, dispose of all waste in designated receptacles on shore.

Finally, remember to use common sense and courtesy when operating a houseboat on Wheeler Lake. Be aware of other boaters and swimmers in the area, and do not create any waves or wakes that could disturb them. Following these simple guidelines allows houseboaters to enjoy a safe and enjoyable experience on the lake.

Houseboats on Lake Cumberland float past beautiful caves, islands, and cliffs.


Lake Cumberland, Kentucky

Beautiful Lake Cumberland is an excellent lake for houseboating because it is the perfect size for exploring. This lake is one of the largest in Kentucky. It spans over 1,200 miles of shoreline and more than 65,000 acres of surface water. In addition, there are plenty of exciting places to explore along Lake Cumberland, including caves, cliffs, and islands. We suggest that houseboaters make a houseboat stop at Jamestown, Kentucky, to enjoy Lake Cumberland, State Park.

Lake Cumberland is also a great place to fish, with plenty of bass, catfish, and crappie to be caught. In addition, the lake is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, bald eagles, and ospreys.

Know that all houseboats must have permits. Get applicable licenses from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. Permits are valid for one year and allow houseboat mooring at any of the designated mooring areas on the lake.

Another necessary regulation is an inspection from a certified inspector before traveling in any boat on Lake Cumberland. Complete the inspection within 30 days of putting the boat in the water.

Following these regulations will help to keep Lake Cumberland a safe and enjoyable place for everyone.

With almost 90,000 acres of calm surface water, Lake Texoma is a popular lake for houseboats.


Lake Texoma, Oklahoma/Texas

Lake Texoma is a magnificent reservoir on the Red River that spans Oklahoma and Texas. It is a popular destination for houseboaters and one of the United States’ largest reservoirs. With nearly 90,000 acres of water and 1,250 miles of shoreline to explore, Lake Texoma offers plenty of space to enjoy. And there are many activities at the lake, from fishing and swimming to boating and hiking. So if you’re looking for an entertaining and action-packed houseboat vacation, Lake Texoma is the place to be.

Learn the rules in both states for houseboating on Lake Texoma. First and foremost, all houseboats must comply with the regulations set forth by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake. Some of the key rules to be aware of include:

  • A maximum boat length of 65 feet.
  • A maximum capacity of 16 people.
  • A 10 MPH speed limit.

Oklahoma and Texas have their own boating laws, and it is vital to be familiar with both sets of rules before heading out on the lake.

By following all the regulations, houseboaters can enjoy a safe and fun experience on Lake Texoma.

Schenectady New York
Schenectady is a popular place in New York State for houseboats to stop on the Erie Canal.

©Jacob Boomsma/

Erie Canal, New York

New York State’s Erie Canal is a great place to go houseboating because of the many things to see and do. Though not officially a lake, the Erie Canal is important to mention because it’s such a beloved waterway by houseboaters. The canal is very pretty for houseboating, and there are plenty of places to stop along the way to explore. Some great stops along the canal include the Harbor Visitor Center in Waterford. You won’t want to miss Waterford’s famous tug boat festival in September every year.

New York’s first great waterway is one of the world’s longest canals. It is over 360 miles long and runs from Albany to Buffalo. The canal is 40 feet wide at the top and 28 feet wide at the bottom.

The Erie Canal in New York is a popular destination for houseboaters. However, there are some regulations that houseboaters must follow to ensure the safety of themselves and others on the canal.

First and foremost, all houseboats must be properly registered and have the required insurance. Houseboats must also have working navigational lights, plus the boat’s name and registration number clearly marked.

Speed limits on the Erie Canal vary depending on the section of the canal. Still, they are generally between 5 and 10 miles per hour.

Houseboats must yield to all other traffic on the canal, including commercial vessels, towpath users, and recreational boaters.

Finally, houseboaters must only moor their boats in designated areas and follow all posted signs and regulations.

Before putting your houseboat in the Erie Canal, check for boat size restrictions and other regulations. Or book a houseboat tour to enjoy all this incredible New York canal has to offer.

Ideal Lake Conditions for Houseboating

When considering the ideal lake conditions for houseboating, check out these guidelines:

  1. You’ll want to ensure that the lake is large enough to accommodate your vessel.
  2. You’ll want to find a lake with calm waters and little wave action.
  3. You’ll want to make sure that there are plenty of docking options available so that you can easily access the shore.
  4. You’ll want to check the weather conditions to be sure that the forecast calls for sunny skies and calm winds.

If you can find a lake that meets all of these criteria, you should have a great houseboating experience. We hope our list of the 10 best lakes for houseboats in the United States helps you enjoy many fabulous boating vacations.

Summary of the 10 Best Lakes for Houseboating

Drop anchor at any of these beautiful lakes for a vacation to remember:

1Lake PowellUtah/Arizona
2Shasta LakeCalifornia
3Birch LakeMinnesota
4Bull Shoals LakeArkansas/Missouri
5Table Rock LakeMissouri
6Kerr LakeNorth Carolina/Virginia
7Wheeler LakeAlabama
8Lake CumberlandKentucky
9Lake TexomaOklahoma/Texas
10Erie CanalNew York

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About the Author

I've been a professional writer for over 12 years, specializing in nature themes, including plants and animals. My areas of interest include pets, sea animals, and flowers. Plus, I can't get enough of red pandas and hummingbirds! I also enjoy gardening, nutrition studies, and snuggling with my cats in my spare time.

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